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Luis Carlos Montalván Headshot

176 Reasons to Close GITMO

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President Obama described it as "this sad chapter in American history," while campaigning in 2008, and 176 detainees languish at Guantánamo while the world watches. Nearly 9 years since the attacks on 9/11, the "Abu Ghraib" in America's back yard remains a visible black eye on Lady Justice.

On December 15, 2009, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum formally closing the detention center at Guantánamo and ordering the prisoners to the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Illinois. As it stands, it seems that legal wrangling and political opposition have stifled any policy implementation.

For far too long, the prison camps in Guantánamo have been a modern day legal black hole for extra-judicial cases. Because of this, there have been abuses, atrocities, and suspicious deaths.

Amidst a sordid gloom of human rights accusations, America needs to finally act with sensibility. The detainees should be afforded due process under relevant provisions of the Geneva Convention (as recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court). Moreover, since most of the remaining enemy combatants were captured on Afghan soil they should be moved and tried there.

So why hasn't the Administration moved this prison to Afghanistan?

Further, since the war in Afghanistan is a NATO operation, enemy combatants should be processed by NATO rather than solely by the U.S. Due to the checks and balances inherent to international organizations, the chances of humane detention, treatment and legal due process would increase in Afghanistan rather than in Cuba, the U.S. or anywhere else.

In Iraq, the U.S. has dedicated considerable resources in to building prisons, and sending U.S. Marshals and other DOJ staff to develop that country's correctional capacity. Enemy combatants detained for attacking Coalition Forces were held in U.S. custody in facilities across that country; eventually, most were transferred into the Central Criminal Court of Iraq system. American forces in Iraq didn't ship "the enemy" to Cuba or elsewhere.

If the Administration and the Army were interested in closing the Guantánamo facility while affording the detainees due process, they would move the 176 detainees to Afghanistan, help the nascent Afghan government create a prison and justice system, and conclude jurisprudence on the soil from which they came.

The United States was once a world leader in human rights. How much longer can our nation sustain a gulag in our back yard?